After Elkton Board Expresses Concern About Town Bypassing Procedures, Public Hearing is Scheduled on a Request for a Permit

The downtown Elkton building.

Elkton Town Hall, April 27, 2011 – Town officials have scheduled a public hearing on a request from Raphael Santini, Esq., for a demolition permit at 124 – 124 1/2 E. Main Street in Elkton, after the Historic and Architectural Review (HARC) Board expressed concern that municipal officials were bypassing procedural requirements.   The matter came up while the Maryland Historical Trust’s Cory R. Kegerise, was meeting with the panel to discuss how Elkton could strengthen its program.  As the state preservation planner suggested development of “clear guidelines” to “increase accountability in the review process,” HARC member Mark Clark remarked “I don’t believe the commissioners want the world he’s describing.”  “He’s exactly right,” town attorney Norman Wilson added.

As the exchange became extended, much of it involving remarks between Clark and Kegerise about preservation philosophies, legal obligations, local officials, town politics, the High Street Senior Apartments, and the role of Elkton’s Main Street program, the abstract subject turned to a practical HARC problem.  Chairperson Paula Newton noted that 124 and 124 1/2 E. Main Street was being demolished, without being brought before the group as required by regulations.

“I was wondering if someone was going to bring that up” Clark declared as board members asked for additional information.  “Several of our leadership want the building down because it’s leaning.  I talked to the owner and told him he would have to bring it before the HARC committee, and he didn’t have a problem with it,” Jeanne Minner, the Elkton planner answered.  “But I was told this week that he isn’t coming before HARC.  They’re issuing him a permit and he’ll knock the building down as soon as possible, but he’s not going to build anything there anytime soon.  He’s said he’s tired of the phone calls about demolishing the building.”  When another panelist asked if the board was legally obligated to review demolitions in the historic district, the Maryland Historict Trust planner said “That’s what state law requires.”     

Why the town wanted to rush this, bypassing its procedures, was something that continued perplexing the board.  “Several of our leadership” wanted the building, which was “a thorn in the side of someone” down for a long time it was noted as the staff and attorney continued explaining the situation.   When it was remarked that it was structural unsound and leaning it was noted that three engineering studies, along with the building inspector, had examined it for structural soundness.   “If it’s not structural unsound and it’s not a blight per se, I don’t understand what the rush is.  What’s the big rush to have a big hole in town,” committee-person Josh Brown stated.  “When I look at this I see an architectural significant façade, but I also see a project that’s not economic feasible,” Clark added.  “It could be as late as the 1920s, but the windows look like its 19th century. . . .  There is something incongruous about this.  I think it’s an improper procedure.”

With the meeting nearing three hours, Brown moved to have the chairperson express dissatisfaction with the matter and let the town known they want it to come before HARC.  “Of course you might not get a chance to before tomorrow morning.  He just picked up the demolition permit,” Wilson and Minner chimed in.   The board agreed to have the chair notify the town and two days later an announcement of a public hearing was posted on the town website, indicating that a public hearing will be held on a demolition permit request on May 11, 2011, at 7:00 p.m.  at the town hall.

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11 responses to “After Elkton Board Expresses Concern About Town Bypassing Procedures, Public Hearing is Scheduled on a Request for a Permit

  1. Night Watchman

    There you go again Joe. Doing what you did on the senior center. Follow the rules Joe like everyone else has to.

    • Night Watchman, they did have procedural problems when they rushed through the approval of the Senior Center, deciding to ignore important town regulations and requirements. In that instance, two taxpayes sued the town because it failed to follow its ordinances, guidelines and procedures. As the trial was underway, the town decided to admit it had failed to follow its rules, in order to settle the case. After that they seemed to be a little more careful at the board meetings when things came up and would make reference to needing to follow the rules. Thus Someone Noticed is surprised to hear that they’d not follow the regulations in this case.

  2. Joe is not leading this battle. He is just a follower!

  3. Debbie, they spent a lot of time speculating about this very subject. At one point one member of HARC said I can’t imagine why the town administrator gives a hoot about a building on Main Street. Others looked knowingly around as they speculated about the driving force to rush through the removal. In fact one of them said to one of the others, you’re not the only one who knows what’s going oun around town as they bounced their preferred indicators around.

  4. It was noted in your blog that Wilson said the permit was picked up already.
    Is this right?

  5. Ressie, that comment at the end reflects what the planner and the town attorney said at the end of the meeting. They were both making comments about the situation after the committee said it was going to request the matter be brought before them. Of course since then the work has apparently stopped and now there will be a hearing by the HARC board.

    • Ressie in reference to the matter you asked about earlier, whether the town attorney said the permit was picked up. That same exact subject came up again at the Wed. hearing, where they approved tearing it down in a 3 to 1 vote. While it was unclear where or how the permit was issued before going through town procedures, when the subject came up the town attorney said the permit was issued. But the town planner wasn’t as sure that it had been issued. Whatever the case with the majority voted to approve it.

  6. Curious George

    They sure get in a hurry in Elkton to when they want something done. That getting in a hurry gets them in trouble. Remember that time they got in a hurry to fix the problem with the homeless. The ACLU sued and won that one. Has Elkton ever won a lawsuit? Just curious what was their hurry this time?

    • Curious George, they held the HARC meeting to determine whether the bulding should be torn down last night. It was curious how confused the situation was and how permission was given to go ahead with this before going through the town’s processes. In the hearing, there was little evidence presented on either side (for or against the building) and there was confusion about almost every matter associated with the building. But they did approve its demolition with 3 in favor and one opposed. We’ll have a full story shortly.

  7. Wonder what would have happened if it wasn’t approved???? So now he will demolish it and there will be a hole on Main Street. He doesn’t have to rebuild. What about all the other properties around town that should be of priority with the town? RMR building for one….or Georges old restaurant/bar.

    • Night Watchman

      Hey Ressie, I know what was going to happen if they didnot approve it. Elkton was going to have another law suit. They were going to loose it to. Yep that’s what Joe was going to do get us sued again. I want to know who told him to tear it down and told him they didn’t have to follow town laws. That is what the night watchman wants to know.

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